Looking at the definitions for once and nonce. they appear very similar to me.

Under what circumstances would one or the other be a more appropriate word choice?

  • Nonce is an adjective, once is an adverb – jeremy Feb 28 '13 at 0:44
  • Nonce probably wouldn't be used in British English – mgb Feb 28 '13 at 1:38
  • Nonce in BrE slang has a very different meaning. – Andrew Leach Feb 28 '13 at 2:22
  • To emphasise the point made by Andrew Leach: Do NOT use nonce in Australia. Or be ready to duck the punch. – Fortiter Feb 28 '13 at 7:24

Once and nonce aren't similar enough to be interchangeable despite their both meaning "one time". They are also in different registers. Don't use nonce unless you want to sound pretentious. The most common uses of that word are in this snippet from Wikipedia:

"A nonce word is a word used only 'for the nonce'....An example of a nonce word in the works of Shakespeare is 'honorificabilitudinitatibus'."

Nonce word is a technical term, so it's not pretentious unless you know that your audience doesn't know it. For the nonce is easily replaceable with for the moment.

  • 2
    Usage of for the nonce has seriously fallen off over the past century. I think for all practical purposes if you're not already in the habit of using it, you probably don't want to start now. Basically, you missed the boat. But nonce word is useful terminology. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '13 at 4:19
  • @Fu: Yes, it has seriously fallen off, which is why I said Don't use "nonce" unless you want to sound pretentious. I, however, have been using it for centuries, if not for ages, but only with people who I know understand it. They're always well-read and almost always over 50. – user21497 Feb 28 '13 at 5:12
  • S'ok. I left us ole farts an out with already in the habit of using it. Going with the flow though, I have to say I'm as likely to be using it facetiously as "naturally" these days - in fact, it's been that way with me for yonks – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '13 at 5:20
  • 1
    @Fu: Nice slang term there. It's been yonks since I've read or heard that one. One doesn't hear it much west of the pond. – user21497 Feb 28 '13 at 5:38

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